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Leigh’s (Almost) Famous Shrimp and Grits Casserole



Posted by on Jun 18, 2017 | 1 comment



One of my favorite things is tasting a dish that is so delicious, I must ask for the recipe; and, then every time I make it, I think of the person who now mingles her kitchen with mine. When I had my friend Leigh’s Shrimp and Grits Casserole, I knew it was one of those. It’s easy, a little bit fancy, and diverse enough to serve for brunch or dinner. It’s a turn on traditional shrimp and grits, and if you don’t care for either, well, a) try this and you might change your mind, or b) if you’re a hard-core hater, I feel for ya. (Unless you’re like my friend Holley, who has a worse-than-Will-Smith-in-Hitch reaction to shellfish. She can’t even look at ’em.)

Leigh’s Scrumptious, Easy
Southern Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Pre-heat oven to 350°F
Lightly grease a 9×12″ baking dish

  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup regular grits (not quick cooking)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey jack pepper cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1½ pound fresh (or frozen) shrimp, peeled and cooked
  • 1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained (Rotel)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  1. Bring 4 cups chicken broth and ½ teaspoon salt to boil in a saucepan; stir in grits.
  2. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir together grits, ¾ cup cheddar cheese, and Monterey jack cheese.
  4. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; add green onions, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté until tender.
  5. Stir together green onion mixture, grits mixture, shrimp, and next 3 ingredients.
  6. Pour into a lightly-greased 2-quart baking dish.
  7. Sprinkle top with remaining ¼ cup cheddar cheese.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 30-45 minutes.

Personal notes:

  • Leigh actually got the recipe from her friend Lisa; clearly good recipes keep goin’ and goin’, Energizer Bunnies of the culinary world.
  • Using half each of a red and green bell pepper make this dish especially festive at Christmas.
  • Depending on how much heat you like in a dish, you might want to use more cheddar and less jack cheese; or, if you want to add more heat, use Rotel’s spicier version of tomatoes. You can mix up the dish with your favorite cheeses, too.
  • This divides well into two smaller casseroles; keep one and give the other to someone who could use a meal!


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Potato Flake Sourdough Bread Starter Recipe



Posted by on Aug 22, 2016 |

Original Sourdough Bread Recipe.jpg

Looking for a tested potato flake starter for sourdough bread that doesn’t require flour?


I finally found one that works, and I think past failures are because I didn’t pay attention to the water when adding the yeast; in order to activate the yeast, the water must be between 120°-130°F (Note: I used Fleischmann’s RapidRise yeast.). Since I have a post over at Grace Table that mentions my sourdough bread and includes the recipe to make it, I thought it might be helpful to have a recipe for starter if you don’t have access to one from a friend.


Potato Flake Bread Starter Recipe
(version that doesn’t use flour)

3 Tablespoons Instant Potato Flakes

1 Packet Fleischmann’s RapidRise Yeast (21/4  Teaspoons Dry Yeast)

½ Cup Granulated White Sugar

1 Cup Water (120°-130°F)

Pour warm water into a plastic container with a lid. Sprinkle yeast over water and stir well. Add potato flakes and sugar to yeast mixture and stir well again. Cover loosely with container lid and leave starter on counter.

Daily for the next four days, stir the starter leaving it on counter, unrefrigerated. On the 5th day, feed your starter (see below), remove one cup to make bread, and return the remainder of the starter to the refrigerator. Starter should be fed every 5-10 days and either returned to the refrigerator or a cup removed to make bread.


To Feed Starter

Every 5-10 days, take starter out of the refrigerator, and stir in the following:

1 cup warm water

½ cup granulated white sugar

3 rounded tablespoons instant potato flakes

Leave out of refrigerator 8 hours (or overnight). At that point, either return starter to refrigerator or remove one cup to make bread, returning the remainder to the fridge.


Please visit Grace Table to read Simple Neighborly Acts,
where you can also find my recipe for Sourdough Bread.

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The Perfect, Most Delicious Way to Cook a Steak



Posted by on May 20, 2015 | 3 comments

The Perfect Way to Cook a Steak

Google “How to cook the perfect steak” and you’ll have 6.7 million returns telling you how to do it. Pioneer Woman, Bobby Flay, Emeril, Gordan Ramsay, Guy Fieri, Rachael Ray, Robert Irvine – even Martha Stewart – all have recipes and methods touting theirs as the best steak in the world.

But then there’s Wes. The guy next door you’ve never heard of. Wes, who makes the best steak I’ve ever had. Wes, who also happens to be my neighbor.

Lawsy, we hit the jackpot.

Wes is an analytical kind of guy who appreciates the science of cooking. He understands the relationship between acids and bases and what happens to food on a molecular level. I understand as long as Wes understands, it’s all good.

Really, REALLY good.

If you’ve already signed up for the 30-Day Protein Challenge, you know it’s not all about beef–that just happens to be my favorite type of protein. (Which made it a no-brainer to work with the Georgia Beef Board during Georgia Beef Month to promote the #ProteinChallenge.)  A slow-cooked roast with carrots and potatoes is practically my love language. Beef tacos is a family favorite. And burgers on the grill? Well, no one does ’em better than my own husband.

One of my favorite discoveries during the 30-Day Protein Challenge is all the delicious-sounding and good-for-you recipes they have. If you’ve been reluctant to try the challenge because you think you’ll be eating the same thing three meals a day for a month, you should sign up for access to so many meal ideas (all the other information is bonus).

Except for cooking a good ol’ filet or rib-eye. For the perfect steak, you’re going to want to do it Wes’ way. Anything else is sloppy seconds.

Wes’ World Rocking, Life-Altering, Magical
Way to Cook the Perfect Steak*

Preparing the perfect steak


  1. Buy high quality steaks from your favorite grocer. My favorite is a filet but my husband will choose a rib-eye for the marbling every time.
  2. Lightly coat steaks in corn oil, about a teaspoon per side. Wes uses Mazola, which works out just fine for us, because that’s all I’ll use for the Best (Apple Pie) Crust in the world.
  3. Season heavily with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, coarsely ground.  Apply equal amounts of both the salt and the pepper, and be careful to season with respect to thickness of the steak.
  4. Heat a large, seasoned cast iron skillet to very hot on a propane burner outside; you’re going to sear the steaks, and at this high of a temperature, it’s best to do so outside because they will smoke.
  5. Sear at high heat two minutes per side or until outside is a nice dark brown (not black).  After taking them off, allow to rest at least 5 minutes.
  6. Finish in 500° oven or grill (indirectly only) 10-20 min until desired temp is reached.  I use a baking pan, but a rack on top of a pan is ideal.  Finishing will take some practice; each steak is different–i.e., ribeye cooks different than filet. Or you can feel the steaks with your finger to judge the doneness. A meat thermometer can help as well.

My friends at the Georgia Beef Board suggest medium rare as the optimal level, cooking to an internal temperature of 145°.

During the searing process the steak should reach approximately 100°. At this point you can actually put the steaks in the fridge and finish them in the oven later or even the next day.

Make sure to allow time for your steaks to rest at least 5-7 minutes before cutting.


Be sure to sign up for the 30-Day Protein Challenge for daily tips, recipes and great inspiration to eat better, in order to feel better. 

Also, if you haven’t yet entered to win one of four prize packs sponsored by the Georgia Beef Board (including $100 toward beef at your favorite grocer’s), there’s still time! Enter here.




*Which Wes actually got from his friend Laurence…which is very similar to Alton Brown’s method of preparation.  


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Your Favorite New Side Dish: Orzo and Wild Rice



Posted by on Mar 14, 2015 | 2 comments

Orzo and Wild Rice - J Alexanders Copycat Recipe

My friend Stephanie has RAVED about the dish forever: Orzo and Wild Rice from J. Alexanders (in Chattanooga). Typically when I’ve eaten there, I’ll opt for a side dish that might just have a wee more calories… Loaded baked potato or wild rice–is it really a question?

But yesterday I hosted a birthday lunch for a friend and I wanted something different and delicious. My main dish was a grilled chicken salad (not a mayo version but tossed with grapes, tarragon and oodles of wonderfulness) and I wanted something special to pair with it. J. Alexander’s Orzo and Wild Rice came to mind so I googled copycat recipes and found several.

The dish is colorful and beautiful and brimming with flavor. Every person at lunch got a second helping and wanted the recipe.


Orzo and Wild Rice - J. Alexanders

Mmmmmm! Can’t you almost TASTE all that flavor??


Below is my adaptation of CD Kitchen’s version (mostly the same with a few modifications). I’ve added Cooks Notes below so you can see what I did differently.

Orzo & Wild Rice
~ a J. Alexander’s copycat recipe ~

  • 2 cups cooked Rice Select Tri-Colored Orzo (it’s so much prettier than plain!)
  • 1 cup cooked wild rice 
  • 3 tablespoons diced red onions
  • 3 tablespoons Craisins 
  • 3 tablespoons corn niblets
  • 4 ½ tablespoons diced orange bell pepper
  • 4 ½  tablespoons diced green bell pepper
  • 2+ tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Orzo & Wild Rice Dressing

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped



Cook orzo and wild rice according to package instructions. Rinse (or “shock”) in cold water and drain well. Refrigerate. While cooking and chilling, chop up ingredients.

Gently toss together pasta, rice, veggies, herbs and dressing. Refrigerate at least two hours and serve cold.

Dressing: Reserving vegetable and olive oil, place remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until blended. Slowly drizzle the oil into your bowl while whisking into ingredients; I prefer using my immersion blender with the whisk attachment because it does the work for me!

Cook’s Notes:

  • Original CC recipe calls for currants; I keep Craisins on hand and decided it wasn’t worth it to buy something extra if I had a good alternative as a staple.
  • Original recipe calls for 2 Tbls corn niblets; since I steamed a whole bag of corn, I added an extra tablespoon. I like the color it adds, plus corn is a secondary love language :).
  • Original recipe called for 3 Tbls each of yellow/red/green bell pepper. I already had green and orange, so I just made sure to have 9 Tbls total. Colorful peppers are healthy AND add so much beauty to a dish. Don’t just go with green.
  • DO NOT USE DRIED HERBS FOR THIS RECIPE!! Fresh basil and parsley make ALL the difference!!!
  • Original recipe called for canola oil; I stopped buying that ages ago so used vegetable oil.
  • You’ll pay a premium for tri-colored orzo, but to me, worth it.
  • I used Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice & it was delicious…maybe because of the flavor pack.

Make this dish SOON and tell me what you think! In the meantime, be sure to pin it and share it with your friends…they’ll be glad you did!

J. Alexander's Wild Rice and Orzo

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WHAT is the Whole30? (Plus an EASY, delicious compliant recipe)



Posted by on Jan 21, 2015 | 6 comments

It Starts With Food - Whole30

I have never been better at numbering my days–

Day 20 of Whole30; Day 8 of 18 sessions of Boot Camp.

Neither is easy for me and there are days I am ready to quit ALL of it.

But I won’t and here’s why: compelling motive, accountability, fun (are you kidding me?) and ripple effect. 

I discuss those things over at The Art of Simple on Thursday, but it occurred to me I’ve been presuming “everyone” already knows what the Whole30 is. Based on the number of times I’ve had to explain it to friends in real life, I thought it would be helpful to elaborate here.

Whole30 is the program based on the New York Times Bestseller, It Starts With Food by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig. It got on my radar last year after my husband discovered it. Cute story: He stumbled onto it searching “how to cook a sweet potato” when I was out of town one weekend.

I looked at him like he had grown another head when he, excitedly, started telling me the ground rules. Thirty days without:

  • potatoes or pasta (potatoes, boil or baked, were added in August of last year but not when we did this in April)
  • sugar or sugar alternatives, added sugar or did I say SUGAR yet??
  • dairy including cheeses, yogurt and ice cream
  • grains including corn (I will not do Whole30 when Silver Queen corn is in season)
  • legumes
  • carrageenan, MSG, sulfites
  • alcohol
  • gum
  • basically nothing with ingredients you can’t pronounce

And while that seems like you can’t eat anything “good,” in essence, that’s all you can eat!

  • meats
  • seafood
  • eggs
  • veggies
  • fruit (not in smoothies, but whole or sliced)
  • “good” fats from fruits, nuts, oils and seeds

I told him I could never do it.

And then we did it.

Rather than me plagiarizing the Whole30 Program Rules, pop over to their site and skim the details (and then buy the book. Seriously. Its appeal to logic, sound reason and physiology just makes SENSE).

What the Whole30 Program is NOT about is calorie counting; never once did I worry about how many calories I was consuming in a day.


Because everything I put in my mouth was unprocessed, fresh food, calories were never an issue.

Doing the Whole30 is not about weight loss (though I lost 8+ pounds during the month); my personal goals were jump-starting an anemic metabolism and trying to get better sleep. Apparently my food choices were sabotaging both and I was amazed to learn how much what I eat is adversely affecting hormone levels. And while I didn’t feel great while I was on the program (many people do experience that), I could tell I felt worse after returning to some of my favorite junk foods. For me, afterwards was when I could tell the difference.

Anyway, it’s really worth five minutes of your time to find out more. This is NOT a sponsored post in any way, shape or form; I sincerely want to be a cheerleader for good health and better lifestyle choices.

Are you already a subscriber? If not, please do by clicking here & adding your email!! 


One of Whole30’s goals is to encourage trying new foods; and while I’ve always loved cauliflower, my favorite way to prepare it was steamed then bathed in a creamy cheese sauce. Because of Whole30, now we eat it roasted, a much healthier alternative. There’s not much to it, but I can’t believe I never tried it until a year ago.

Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients for roasting cauliflower



  • 1 Head of Cauliflower, washed, patted dry and cut into florets
  • 2-3 Tblsp Olive Oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Toss florets in a large bowl together with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. Don’t be afraid of the browning, it adds a rich buttery taste to the florets.

You can add garlic or your favorite herbs, but I’ve found I like it simply prepared best. Remember, no cheeses on Whole30 so Parmesan is a no-no.


Roasted Cauliflower



I’d love for you to share your favorite Whole30 compliant recipes. Tell me your stories, too, about how you’re pursing better health. It helps me to remember I’m not in this thing alone… :)

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Why I’m Doing Whole 30 and A Recipe Born of Desperation



Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 | 6 comments

Whole30 Egg Muffins - Mini-Quiches


In hindsight, our timing could have been better.

After a wonderful return trip to Germany recently (one reason of many the blog has been so quiet lately), eating and drinking incredible things, we decided to shock our bodies senseless by beginning Whole 30 the day we returned.

“What is Whole 30?” you ask?  Torture.

Okay, that might be a wee exaggeration, but it’s a culinary stretch for us, both in preparation and consumption.

It started rather innocently, when Tad googled how to bake sweet potatoes when I was out of town.  He landed on a Paleo blog, and that, I’m afraid, was that. He landed on a page that showed before and after pictures, which lead him to read more.  The more he read, the more he was convinced this was a Good Thing.

Curses to those healthy food bloggers!

But then, the more I read, the more I was intrigued.

For the first time in my life, I decided to restrict and revise my diet NOT to lose weight but to improve my quality of life.


I haven’t slept well in over ten years (and ten years prior to that, I wasn’t sleeping well because of babies!).  My metabolism is flatlined.  My body has changed – really changed – over the past two years and not for the better, and without me eating more.

For 30 days we’ve committed to:

  • No dairy (including cheese or yogurt)
  • No sugar including natural and artificial sweeteners
  • No added sugar (which, when you read American canned good labels, IS IN EVERYTHING)
  • No grains (buh-bye beautiful breads, rolls, bagels, English muffins…)
  • No soy, carrageenan, MSG or sulfites

So when I’m committed to something like this, I’m ALL in, and I become the Best Rule Follower of Them All.  I even smacked Tad’s hands for chewing gum because it’s off limits!  Gum triggers false signals to your digestive system AND it contains artificial sweeteners.

Interestingly, Whole 30 even engages your brain; we’re having to think more about meal planning. Almost none of my go-to recipes are Whole 30 compliant, so I’m reinventing the menu wheel in our house.  Which is why I’m sharing a recipe today.

I call it Egg McMazings because it’s incredibly versatile and you can add your favorite ingredients.  Basically, I googled a bunch of recipes, and tailored this to what I had on hand:

Eggs Peppers Kale Onion


Egg McMazing – Whole 30 Egg Muffins


  • 10 eggs (Whole 30 recommends pastured, grass fed if you can get ’em)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup bell pepper, chopped
  • Big ol’ handful of Kale, chopped with stems removed
  • Basically your favorite ingredients in whatever amounts you’d like.
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Lightly grease muffin tin or line with muffin cups.  Beat eggs together with salt and pepper and gentle fold in veggies.  Cook for about 20 minutes in a pre-heated 350° oven, or until eggs are set in the middle.  Will keep about 4 days in the refrigerator and my Publix manager (I kid you not, the guy who told me to make these) said they freeze wonderfully.

See??? The EASIEST recipe in the world!!


  • I sautéed my veggies in a little olive oil because I wanted to make sure they were tender, not crunchy.
  • I can’t wait to try this with ground, browned sausage, broccoli, mushrooms and maybe zucchini.
  • I’m sure everyone else on the planet would like tomatoes in ’em (blech!).
  • I used 11 eggs (I was thinking one per muffin) and had some leftover (I didn’t want to fill muffins too full; can’t stand it if they cook over and brown too much).  I scrambled the remaining mixture and it was *almost* like a frittata (and finished much sooner than the egg muffins).

Questions?  Comments?  Have you tried Whole 30??
I mean, I’M EATING KALE, PEOPLE, even in smoothies.  

I have no idea who I am anymore….

Robin Heart Signature - Green



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